Ruth Fisher - Bit and Bridle Fitting

We all go out and get our saddles fitted, checked and adjusted. It's one of those basic care needs for your horse that all those horsey professionals will ask “when was the saddle last checked?” but nobody seems to ask “when did you last get your bit/bridle checked?”

I finally got around to getting it checked and I am so glad that I did, for the last few years, I had done, probably what a lot of us had done, picked up a generic sized bridle from the shelf, kept the bit that I have currently and got a friend more experienced than me to check it. But really, we are all just taking an estimated guess.

My appointment was quite late due to work, it was freezing cold as it was the end of November and I just wanted to go home and eat some warm food! I don’t really like meeting new people because I have to go through the whole story of how my mare is 30 years old, in work and loves jumping. I never know which way it’s going to go, sometimes people think ‘that’s great’ and other people give me that sympathetic look and want me to wrap her up in cotton wool.

Ruth came along and Bodie was quiet in the stable, she had a quick chat about her general health, had a feel of her mouth/head and asked me to put my current bridle on. I had a Micklem at the time, because from everything I had read it was anatomically better than other bridles on the market. I was sucked in by the advertising and felt like I was doing the best for my horse. I popped the same bit in, we had enough brakes and I had a bit of a fear of interfering with things that aren’t broken.

I was so wrong.

Ruth explained how the shape of horses mouths differed and therefore a bit that fitted one horse wouldn’t be suitable for another, not only in size but also in the structure of the mouth, she explained that the space for the tongue and the mouth has a big impact on the bit that will be comfortable for a horse. And there was me, thinking I could just walk into a shop and pick up any old bit so long as it was the right length. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

I popped Bodie’s bridle on and Ruth explained where the pressure points were on the bridle, I just sat with my mouth open feeling like a fool. She explained that although the bridle had taken away some pressure points, what it had actually done was to put the pressure elsewhere, so really I wasn’t any better off. The Micklem was putting pressure on Bodie’s nose cartilage, the brow band was tight, like wearing a baseball cap an inch too small, the flash was restricting her airways in her nose and the bit, although was roughly the right size was also doing me no favours.

Ruth asked to see Bodie ridden in the school, out plodded my old, tired-looking mare and enter the chestnut legend. It wasn’t ideal conditions, Bodie had been in for 2 days due to the terrible weather we had been having. It was dark, the generator for the lights were on and she had to walk from her stable down to the school. She was a bit ‘fresh’ to walk down and I basically left Ruth whilst I was dragged down the path.

I got on Bodie and I could see that she had a bit of ‘dragon’ in her eye. There was no patient waiting for me to get on, in fact I’m not even sure there was a transition from walk to trot, it was just trot. Ruth was great. I was feeling really quite embarrassed, her back was up, she was shaking her head as I asked really politely for some walk. Ruth adjusted parts of the bridle and kept her walking, she could see that Bodie wasn’t going to stand still and having an argument about it wasn’t even worth it as her head was blown. After every adjustment she asked me to get back on to ride. The best thing about Ruth is I didn’t feel like it was a sales speech, she didn’t rush me and she didn’t make me feel like a complete idiot for having a hyperactive veteran. I apologised profusely for Bodie’s behaviour as she kept trying to barge Ruth out the way. Ruth let me identify the changes in Bodie’s way of going for myself e.g. there was less headshaking, she also showed me in a very practical way that there was no need for a flash. Eventually we settled on a combination for her, Ruth had, had a taste for Bodie’s personality and just accepted her for what she was. As such, she made sure that the set up was right for her, releasing the pressure from the bridle and also having a less fussy bit. She recommended a different bit, a Western Eggbutt snaffle and also a new bridle from Horsemanship Saddlery Ltd. All of the pieces of this bridle can be removed, changed and different sizes can be purchased. We have a combination of different sized pieces from pony to full to make up the bridle, it makes you question how an off the shelf bridle can fit any horse correctly.

When I ordered the new bridle and the new bit I have noticed a difference in the way Bodie has been going, she is making a nice shape and is much more giving with her head and she isn't shaking her head as much, I think she is more comfortable overall. It has made a huge difference and I’m angry at myself that I haven’t sought professional advice sooner.






And get the bit/bridle fitter!!!!

Ruth Fisher Bit and Bridle Fitter:

Horsemanship Saddlery Ltd: